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BEERology, New Exhibit Explores The History of Beer

BEERology, a new exhibit at San Diego's Museum of Man explores the history of beer around the world.
BEERology, a new exhibit at San Diego's Museum of Man explores the history of beer around the world.
BEERology, New Exhibit Explores The History of Beer
GuestsRex Garniewicz, Exhibit Curator, Museum of Man Chief Operating Officer Katherine Yee, Exhibit Designer, Creative Director

Stay with us, coming up next everyone either loves beer or knows someone who loves beer so why not gin up on the roots of beer as a word the Museum of Man as per the agreed exhibit to satisfy both your intellectual curiosity and your taste buds. That is just ahead. You are listening to Midday Edition on KPBS. I'm Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Beer, it's more than just a refreshing drink. It has become an economic engine in San Diego and there's a growing fascination for all things beer as American tastes move beyond old brands and start exploring new variations from small brew houses popping up or hopping up all over the place. The Museum of Man is offering a deeper look at beer. It's new exhibition beerologies takes us to places like Mesopotamia and China in the search for the roots of this refreshing drink. So my guesTs are Rex Garniewicz, who is the exhibit curator and COO of the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Thanks so much for joining us, Rex. REX GARNIEWICZ: Thanks for having us. ALLISON ST. JOHN: And we also have Katherine Yee, the creative director at the Museum of Man and the exhibit designer. Katherine thanks for being here. KATHERINE YEE: Thanks for having me. ALLISON ST. JOHN: All right, Rex. Why exhibit on beer? Why now? REX GARNIEWICZ: You are in San Diego so you know why we have to have an exhibit on beer here, there's actually two, I actually went and looked at the collection of the Museum of Man and was looking for a theme to tie a lot of it together and beer was a perfect one because it crossed all these cultures and old time we have great artifacts that relate to the origins of brewing and growing around the world. ALLISON ST. JOHN: So what do you attribute this burgeoning interest in the brewing? REX GARNIEWICZ: I think people have always been interested in beer and we just went through a little while in the United States where we had this very generic light beer that was being served and was not very diverse in the amount of tastes so San Diego said some early craft brewers here and I think people started developing a taste for more sophisticated beers and as a result the craft beer industry burgeoned here and grew and is still growing. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Let's start with some history what is the oldest evidence of beer that archaeologists have uncovered so far? REX GARNIEWICZ: Archaeologists think that there has probably been around longer than we have evidence for it. The earliest solid scientific evidence we have for it is from a site in China and it dates to around 9000 years ago and they were making a beer out of rice, millet and hawthorn fruits. ALLISON ST. JOHN: So when you say could have led to the beginning of the growth of grains and things, what leads you to say that? Wouldn't bread be more important than beer? REX GARNIEWICZ: So there is this long-standing debate in ecological literature that goes back to 1950s about which came first, beer or bread. So, they both use grains, they both use yeast. There were unleavened breads as well that did not use yeast, but actually the early beers are more nutritious than bread some people have analyzed the early beers that left the grains in the beer scented fermenting. In ancient Egypt for example a bacteria co-occurred with a yeast and produce tetracycline. So the beer actually had antibiotics in it, and you can see this evidence in Egyptian skeletons and in Egyptian mummies and it tells the story of beer being both central to their culture, their economy and their health and nutrition. ALLISON ST. JOHN: It reminds me when they were growing up they said Newcastle Brown has as much protein as a ham sandwich. That was just an excuse to drink more beer, what Katherine was your vision for the exhibit? KATHERINE YEE: Well there was a very exciting exhibit for me to design I had no qualms about doing an exhibit on beer it was really fun to design this particular exhibit because it went beyond your normal conceptions of what beer is. Your initial thoughts of when you think of beer are like bars, dive bars, this brick woody feeling but looking at the artifacts in our collections we had to go much further than that and the way we designed the exhibits are having a bit of cultural feel to the exhibit bringing in languages from other countries, showcasing you know, the stonework from the Inca culture within the design while keeping along the lines of beer was an interesting combination for me. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Beautiful. So you actually have some real examples of Inca stonework in the exhibit? KATHERINE YEE: Not real examples but one of our cases actually we made it to look like a stone and within the case features a gold Caro from the Inca culture that is what the King used to drink his beer out of. ALLISON ST. JOHN: how about the colors of there because you know when you're ordering. There's light beer, amber, dark. Did that play into your vision at all? KATHERINE YEE: Our colors are actually closer to green for the color of top-seeded yellow for the color of. The reason we chose the colors is because it gives it a more agricultural field and the way all the beers developed in different regions is really based on the agriculture that they had in the region, so court was the basis of some teacher beers in the Amazon. They had cassava root, which was how they bring their beers, and in China it was rice and millet. So very different from the barley and wheat beers that we typically associate what actually ALLISON ST. JOHN: defines. Sounds like there's a lot of variations what makes it. As opposed to another drink? REX GARNIEWICZ: That's a great question a lot of people came up to me and said that's not there. So we define. Very generally as a drink where someone, a culture would take a starch and convert the complex starch or sugar by using enzymes. Then the sugar is fermented by yeast, and it becomes an alcoholic beer. So, this would include our beer, but also things like sake, which is made from rice. And the rice, the starches are broken down by molding and fermented by yeast to make a very strong, up to 20% alcohol beer. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Is it interrelated with cider? REX GARNIEWICZ: You can't count cider. So cider's in the group with wine where the sugars are naturally occurring. So grapes naturally have sugar, apples actually have sugar or pears, or whatever you make the cider out of you and those are easier to make technologically than beer. ALLISON ST. JOHN: So the Incans had something called chicha? KATHERINE YEE: Yes. ALLISON ST. JOHN: What was that beer made out of? REX GARNIEWICZ: Their beer is made out of corn. That is the starch, but the enzyme is actually from human saliva. It is an amylase enzyme, so they would chew up the corn and spit it out, and that would break down the starch into sugar and allow yeast to ferment it. ALLISON ST. JOHN: My goodness so you could really get some good erudite stories by visiting this exhibition about what it is you are drinking. REX GARNIEWICZ: There are some interesting and unexpected things in the exhibit. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Is it really the most widespread drink in the world I believe that's one of the most widespread things you were claiming. I would stand for tea REX GARNIEWICZ: After water tea is the second in the beer is the third based on the latest numbers. So it is the third most popular drink. ALLISON ST. JOHN: So now Rex did you draw on your own personal experience with setting up the exhibit of brewing beer? REX GARNIEWICZ: I brewed a beer or two and maybe consumed one or two. I was interested in beer brewing I've been interested in it for about 20 years as a home brewer, but also as an archaeologist I studied the origins of agriculture and how that affects human culture and civilization. So beer is a great time and for those two things. ALLISON ST. JOHN: I understand that you did make some beers is the site with a poisonous cassava plant? REX GARNIEWICZ: I did do that but it turned out it was not very popular. That's another beer that you have to chew the root and then spit it out and let it ferment and as soon as I started telling people how I made the beer they seemed less and less interested in drinking it. ALLISON ST. JOHN: But if you didn't tell them where it came from a bit like haggis, they would've liked it? REX GARNIEWICZ: I sometimes try to do that. KATHERINE YEE: I still think he's tried to slip into one of our drinks. ALLISON ST. JOHN: So it's made from cassava as well it is not just grains REX GARNIEWICZ: The starch can be within tubers as well as grains. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Katherine tell us a bit more about the visuals of this. What kind of artifacts will we see when we come? KATHERINE YEE: They are very beautiful artifacts like you mentioned that gold is the showcase piece the first thing when you walk through it to the more international section of the exhibit. And then we have a wonderful connection of collection of mushy growlers which is a pretty much the version of the modern-day growlers right now in San Diego through the growler to a particular breed they would The growler and take it home, they have these very custom growlers that you made that were shaped like animals, or sheeplike people are figures in their life and in their culture and we have 45 on display and pretty much 200 I believe in the museum's connection, collection and is a world-class collection of growlers. ALLISON ST. JOHN: This is a mug? KATHERINE YEE: It is a disturbed pot, the handle and the spout are kind of the same thing. ALLISON ST. JOHN: You might be starting a fad on growlers, you call them where does the word come from? KATHERINE YEE: I will let Rex say that. REX GARNIEWICZ: There is a lot of debate on where growler comes from and the etymology on that is not well understood. There's some great stories that are not true. Like they used to rush out these tin cans, holding about a half gallon of beer and the sound of the gas escaping through the lid made a sound like an animal's growl. So most of these were constructed probably stories about where growler came from. ALLISON ST. JOHN: You know, I guess I'm wondering whether beer has always been popular. When you look at the history of it, has its popularity waxed and waned or has it been consistent over time? REX GARNIEWICZ: It's been consistent somewhere over time but not everywhere. So the Etruscans brewed beer, but then when the Romans sort of established their civilization around the Mediterranean they focused more on wine than beer. Then when they were growing wine in the Mediterranean, the Northern Celts were brewing amazing beers. And you can see evidence for this in a lot of their archaeological sites. So we see the shifting landscape of beer in one place and another place and it has always been somewhere. ALLISON ST. JOHN: isn't it true to say that actually it was. The missions, the California missions here?so it was used as a source of raising money I guess, for the mods? REX GARNIEWICZ: Yeah that follows a long tradition of monastic brewing that goes back into the Middle Ages in Europe, where they would have monastery's primary source of income would be from hosting travelers. And as part of that they would be brewing beer and serving that as a safe alternative to drinking water. Because in the Middle Ages, water had all kinds of bacteria and the process of boiling it for beer, you sterilize the water, and therefore it was considered, in cultures that did not really have a complex understanding of microorganisms, it's much healthier to drink beer than water that might be polluted. ALLISON ST. JOHN: They discovered the monks were living longer if they drink beer. REX GARNIEWICZ: Happier anyway. ALLISON ST. JOHN: What's the difference you mentioned this is not the only exhibit about beer in San Diego what's the difference between this one and the history center's exhibit? REX GARNIEWICZ: So the next couple months is really the best time to come to Balboa Park because you can still see both of them. Ours looks at the science, history and culture of beer around the world. The history Center focuses more on the craft brew history of San Diego County. So the two exhibits are. Really well together. You can see ours and go over and see the rest of the story at the history Center. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Will there be any tastings involved? KATHERINE YEE: We are really looking forward to the tastings. Think we have a good lineup for the rest of the year. The first one coming up in September 19 and that is the story of yeast. White labs here in San Diego is going to do a tasting event at the Museum with a couple other breweries. And you can tell, you will learn the difference and how yeast affects the flavor of the beer. Then in January we will have an ancient ales tasting event, where we, our sponsor dogfish head is going to have a tasting of the ancient ales. So, they have beers that they've done research on and they have ears from China, ancient China, Egypt and a couple other places where they've gone and done research and trying to figure out what the ingredients of the ancient beers are and they re-created and you can taste it in January at the Museum. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Interesting I assume some of the local craft breweries are involved in this KATHERINE YEE: Yes REX GARNIEWICZ: They've been very supportive so at the opening we have seven different craft breweries and probably for most of the tastings we will have the same and they were really great at helping advise us, showing us around the breweries and they are really excited about this exhibit. ALLISON ST. JOHN: great I would like to thank you both very much for joining us, that is Rex the CEO of the Museum of Man and Katherine Yee the exhibit designer of the new exhibit called beerology. And I would like to just really say I like the T-shirts you are wearing. They are fabulous. REX GARNIEWICZ: You can get those at our store. ALLISON ST. JOHN: One must, thank you so much for joining us. REX GARNIEWICZ: Thank you very much. ALLISON ST. JOHN: Midday Edition is produced By Patty Lane, Megan Burke, Marissa Cabrera, the executive producer is Natalie Walsh. Our director today is Tim Fell. We wish our departing director (inaudible) all the best as he takes off to start a family closer to home in another state. I am Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Thank you so much for listening.

Beer! It's more than just a refreshing drink.

Brewing beer is becoming an economic engine in San Diego. But there's also a growing fascination for all things beer, as American tastes explore new variations from small brew houses popping up all over the place

The Museum of Man is offering a deeper look.


It's new exhibit, BEERology takes us to places like Mesopotamia and China in the search for the roots of beer culture.

The exhibit also illustrates the science behind the hoppy beverage and will offer tastings too.

This isn't the first beer themed exhibit in San Diego. Earlier this year, San Diego History Center opened Bottled and Kegged, which focused on San Diego's craft brew culture.